A Gift from the U.S. Emaassy
During the day, we were stopped looking for a way through thick bush to a stream to filter water. A four wheel drive slowed to a stop beside us; the smiling driver asked, “Would you like a couple of cold Cokes?” You can guess our answer. He was an employee of the U.S. Embassy. “These are a gift from your American Embassy,” he said, and drove on smiling at being able to please two people so much, so easily. An all together excellent use of taxpayer dollars, we think. 50,000 Kilometres of Tandem Togetherness or The Dust and Flies Argument
Dust and Flies
We passed a milestone on this section: 50,000 kilometres of unsupported touring. That is well over 30,000 miles, a few thousand miles more than around the earth at the equator. High in the Snowy Mountains; hot, dirt road, flies and dust, and blue sky, quiet and bird song. Counting down the kilometers. “How appropriate to mark 50,000 kilometers of cycle touring with flies and dust,” I say. Claire does not like that. We work on our communication skills. After more than 13 years, we have a ways to go. As all committed couples know, it is anever ending process, as long as the relationship is vital, growing. “Why did you have to focus on flies and dust?” She said. I think, desperately seeking a way out of the hole I’d dug for myself. I try and think exactly why I had said such a negative sounding thing. Truthfully I say, “Because flies and dust are as much a part of our touring life as is blue skies and bird song, it is all one whole, a complete circle of experience.” She is not convinced. She thinks I say to many negative things. She prefers to concentrate on the positive aspects of what we do. While we talk the flies, ten cent size with long biting mouth parts. begin working on the backs of our legs. We kill flies for awhile and are silent, under blue sky, standing in dust, listening to birds… It is all there, a whole, but we concentrate, for the moment, on the flies. The bug spray comes out and we are able to talk again. After ten minutes of familiar sounding discussion, we decide we can like each other again, hug, and begin the next 50,000 kilometers.
You can’t always have sparkling wine and candlelight for celebrations, or placid dispositions. Sometimes there are discordant words, and biting flies. But the blue sky is still up there, and the bird song still calls us onward, always onward, always together.
Cowboys and Cowgirls, Bull and Bronc Riding, Old West Down Under
A couple of days concern about the tyre and we were safely out of the mountains in Cooma, just in time for the rodeo, pronounced here as ro-day-o, the same as the famous rich people’s street in Los Angeles. Nobody would ever pronounce a cowboy competition that way in the States. Wonderful differences. There were some very good cowboys and girls (not ringers in this part of Australia, with names like: Jillian, Jodie, Tami, Cindy, Tami and Kristi; Tod, Ben, Rod, Tom, Tim, Joe, Luke, Troy and Sam. Through the swirling under lights at the town oval, there was bull riding, saddle broncs, bareback, team roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing. Young cowboys and girls flirt shyly, drink beer, in jeans and boots, taking the first halting steps to adulthood. Kids run and play as the public address system plays the cotton eye Joe. Everybody is dressed country and having a good time. I am amazed at how much like a North American scene it is. There is something very universal about this. Cowboys do not belong to America only anymore, if they ever did.
Canberra, Spoiled Again By Our Dutch/Aussie Adopted Parents
Jerry and Trudy ten Dam picked us up and the visitors information center, Jerry insisted on picking us up with his utility trailer. We were so glad to see them after several months; big hugs all around, smiles of the I-can’t-believe-you (we)- are-here variety. We knew we were in for some spoiling. We had only planned a couple of days with them, not wanting to wear out our welcome, but it soon became clear we would be with them for a week, whether we liked it or not!, which we did.
If you have been following these writings, you will remember that Jerry and Trudy belong to the gray nomads of Australia; they tour with their four wheel drive and caravan during the winter months, preferring to be in the north half of the continent where the sun shines every day, the air is dry and the spaces big. We saw them daily for awhile and camped with them several times. Our introduction to them was when they waved us off the road at 10 am for coffee and cake; an event that became quite regular over the nearly two months we leap-frogged them in Western Australia.
Jerry and Trudy took us to so may places, and showed us so many things, that we won’t be ableto mention them now. Much of our Canberra week will have to wait for when these notes are put into more complete form in the months after we return. This is just a little hint for regular readers that this page will be considerably edited and expanded later, and will be worth visiting long after our trip ends!
A short list of the places we visited in Canberra:
Old Parliament House, New Parliament House, Australian War Memorial, Canberra Deep Space Complex (NASA and partners in Australia. Track and receive date from our first moon landing and planetary missions), Bendora Dam, Bicycle Resource Center (Where we met Director, Annamarie Driver and Australian Cyclist Editor, Sue Webber).
Jerry and Trudy drove us anywhere we wanted to go, and came back to pick us up if it was something they had seen before. We were spoiled bad.
We met Luke and Marie Wensing for tea one evening. They are cycling advocates and work through Pedal Power, and are keen cycle tourists. Luke organized the Federation Ride program for the Centenary of Federation. They will be leading a ride from Alice Springs back to Canberra and Luke has registered our ride from Canberra to Cairns as a Federation Ride.
Luke picked us up from the War Memorial, and we stopped off at the Vietnam Memorial out on a long boulevard lined with memorials. It was raining and the black marble ramp to the open shell was slick and glistening. A stark photo, four metres high, of choppers hovering over soldiers fills the space. Cryptic words of war fill another wall. Overhead, the names of Australians who died there. A muzzle flash and boom behind me. No, it is the storm. I was of that generation, and Luke too, but we were not called, did not go. Why them and not me? It is a question that stays with me. It has no answer.
Rubbing Elbows With The Prime Minister, Almost
We spent Australia Day with Luke and Marie, and Gary Higgins who’d shown up from Sydney on his Harley Davidson. The festivities were on Lake Burleigh Griffin (named after the American who designed the city, another story). There we saw some fine empire style military marching, a brass marching band, a military jet fighter overflight, a twenty-one gun salute and a speech by the Prime Minister, John Howard. We were amazed at how little security there was for Mr. Howard. Refreshing to be able to walk a metre or two from the Prime Minister of such a large and important country. He was kissing a baby. Yes, it is an election year.
We watched a citizenship ceremony. I have a photo of a man in a turban holding a little Australian flag, waiting to take the pledge. Later we watched a bit of cricket on the lawn before heading back to our bikes for the ride back to the suburbs along bike paths. At our bikes we saw Bob Patterson, the man who gave us Cokes back in the mountains. He is the driver for our Ambassador and was standing beside a big car with flags over the headlights. He was looking at our mud map of our 15,000 plus loop of Australia with the Prime Minister’s driver. They were impressed. Too bad we just missed our Ambassador, we could have thanked him for the Cokes.
Before leaving Canberra we were invited to Jerry and Trudy’s son Martin’s house for a barbie. They’re daughter Mary and her husband Stephen also came and we had a wonderful evening around the table, with lots of talk about a wide range of subjects including ten Dam family traits which produced much laughter. We felt so much at home and welcomed. We were blessed to be included in their family for a night.
Next morning we left early after breakfast and tea, our usual ritual for a week. “You know we love you both,” I said to Trudy as I hugged her good-by. We hope they come to America someday. I know they would love the West. We will miss them.